The Gateway to Wonder is ready!
The morning rush-hour traffic along High Level Road was worrying us a
little bit when we were passing Nugegoda and Maharagama towns filled
with huge traffic snarls as we were heading towards Kottawa the entry
point to the ‘Gateway to Wonder’ the newest addition to the road network
the E-1 road or the Southern Express way.
Development of Highlevel road was going on apace to make it feasible
for the expected huge inflow of traffic on the Southern Expressway which
has cut short the journey from Galle to Colombo by one hour, once it is
commissioned on November 27, by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the true
sense of opening the gateway to wonder for the country.
It was after passing the busy Kottawa junction on the A-4 Colombo-
Wellawaya- Batticaloa road or famously known Highlevel road, a location
filled with lot of ongoing construction work leads us to the entry point
to the ‘Gateway to Wonder’ with a sign board indicating the distance to
Galle as 105.4 Km.
As we reached the entry point a lot of thoughts entered our minds as
many media reports have created misconceptions regarding the Expressway
and we were about to exactly observe the operational mechanism of the
road and the safety measures for motorists plying on the Expressway.
Many would have been puzzled with the huge construction work going on
in Kottawa, as a part of the Southern Expressway but that is a part of
the ongoing construction work of the Colombo Outer Circular road which
connects the major road leading to outstations from the centre of
Colombo which is to be added to the Expressway network at the end of
As the construction of the interchange connecting the Southern
Expressway and the Outer Circular road is still going on, a temporary
entry point has been constructed in Kottawa to facilitate the opening of
the section of the Southern Expressway from Kottawa to Pinnaduwa.
“The interchange at Kottawa is the most complex interchange in the
Expressway to be constructed and once it is completed it will be fitted
with 13 gates to facilitate the entry to the Southern Expressway and the
Outer Circular Road. Until then we have constructed this new entry
point”, Nimal Chandrasiri, project Director of the Southern Expressway
At the entry point any motorist has to obtain an electronic ticket
from the toll gates to be submitted to the toll collector at the end of
their destination and at every interchange, toll gates have been
established to get the Expressway ready for commissioning. For each
category of vehicles different rates have been given and the fee will
also be decided depending on the distance they have travelled. It is not
a flat rate.
According to Engineer Chandrasiri, eight interchanges are established
for motorists to enter and exit from this limited access road for the
first time in its history.
Everyone had doubts whether motorists can reach Galle in one hour.
But minutes after entering the Expressway we did not even think of the
speed of our bus as there was no reason for us to be uncomfortable in
But the meter reader in front of the driver indicated that bus was
driven at a speed close to 100 KmPH which is impossible on any other
road in Sri Lanka due to existing traffic laws. But the time has now
come for Sri Lankans to have that rare experience of reaching their
desired destinations within minutes. The unimaginable has overtaken
imaginations and as a nation we are driven into the wonder in Asia with
rapid changes taking place in the road network of the country. But there
was no time to think any more and we had reached the next interchange on
It took less than four minutes for us to reach Kahathuduwa
interchange located 7.6 Km from Kottawa connecting the Expressway to the
The next interchange is at Gelanigama, Bandaragama and it connects
the Expressway with the Panadura-Ratnapura road. The Dodangoda
interchange is located 21 Km from the Gelanigama interchange connecting
the Mathugama-Agalawatta road to the Expressway.
Next we get to the Welipenna interchange 11 Km away from Dodangoda
connecting the Horana-Mathugama-Aluthgama road to the Expressway.
After Welipenna you find the next interchange at Kurundugahahetekma
with a gap of 20.7 km between the two interchanges and connecting the
Expressway to the Ambalangoda- Elpitiya road. Next comes Baddegama
interchange to connect the Expressway to Hikkaduwa -Baddegama road.
Galle entry road
Finally we reach Pinnaduwa to mark the end of the first phase of the
Southern Expressway and within a few minutes after coming out of the
Expressway, motorists can proceed either towards Galle town or towards
Matara after entering the Galle-Matara road through the newly
constructed Galle entry road.
“At each entry exit point we have differently designed interchanges
and we have the most simple diamond type interchanges at Kahathuduwa,
Dodangoda and Welipenna. At Gelanigama and Kurundugahahetekma we have
folded Diamond shaped interchanges while at Pinnaduwa we are having
trumpet-type interchange”, he added.
Though these interchanges are complex, if you follow directions given
before reaching the interchange that will automatically guide to the
correct point if the motorists are entering the Expressway with a clear
view about their exact destination and from which point they can exit to
reach their desired destination. Any motorist will not be uncomfortable
as sign boards are there in all three languages along the Expressway to
guide you to the desired destination.
Lush green foliage on either side of the Expressway is indeed
Clear directions are indicated along the way
A user fee office
|Pix : Thilak Perera
As you pass these interchanges you will not feel bored as eye
soothing sceneries keep you awake all the time. I heard someone
complaining that he could not see people along the road as it is a
limited access road.
However, the lush greenery coupled with the rural set-up take you
away from the hustle and bustle of the city taking you to a dream world.
Huge bridges across Bentara river and other tributaries and long
stretches of paddy fields refresh your mind all the time throughout your
journey. One thing you miss is the huge traffic snarls and busy city
centres plus the scenic view of the coastal belt which is typical to Sri
But the Southern Expressway puts your mind at ease till you reach
You have to be doubly sure that you are on the correct lane and be
mindful of other motorists. Therefore, safety is of prime concern of the
Road Development Authority and the Police who are ready for the
Expressway once it is commissioned. B.D.K. Bandara, Director Operations,
Management and Maintenance of the Southern Expressway said once the
Expressway construction is completed the RDA has to take over the
responsibility of operations and maintenance.
“We have three offices and we have set up our head office at
Gelanigama and 500 officers from the RDA and 500 officers from the
Police Department have been deployed for various duties. The Police is
assisting us in accident services, emergency situations and also to
tackle other situations that may arise”, he added.
“We have brought new machines for the maintenance of the road and
fire operations. We also have a paramedic unit and facilities to control
any accident or fire. As we consider this road a special road, officials
will be deployed on a 24-hour-basis on seven days of the week”, he
At the same time the Police and RDA officials are monitoring vehicles
plying on the road on CCTV cameras.
“At the CCTV control room, Police and RDA officials will be there and
can detect any high speed motorists as we have imposed 100 Kmph as the
maximum speed”, he said. At the initial stage, the areas around the
interchanges will be monitored through CCTV cameras as a large number of
accidents on Expressways are reported close to interchanges.
Three Emergency Centres have been located at Gelanigama,
Kurundugahahetekma and Pinnaduwa. At each Emergency Centre, two
ambulances, fire vehicles and water bowsers are ready.
“In the event of an accident, we have RDA vehicles and Police
vehicles on a 24-hours basis and RDA vehicles and Police vehicles will
ply between two interchanges every time and can detect any accident
within a few minutes”, he added.
According to Bandara, at any minute there are four vehicles operating
between two interchanges and the Police have a radio unit. When these
mobile patrols informs the emergency call centre, that message will be
passed onto all eight interchanges.
“Within one minute they can be made aware about the accident and
Emergency Units will act according to the level of the accident. If
there is fire the fire brigade will reach there and paramedics will also
be there. Within one or two minutes they can access the spot where an
accident has occurred”, he added.
Motorists in an accident or any other incident affecting them can
call on 1969 to inform Police about the incident. “They have to give the
location from the sign boards put up along the road indicating the
distance”, he added.
During night time, motorists should make use of the diamond shaped
indicator to make other people aware that they have met with an
For these operations we have provided nine cars to the Police, nine
motorbikes with 900 Hp, six ambulances and two ambulance for each
Emergency Centre, two fire engins and water bowser for each centre.
“These vehicles have been purchased solely for this purpose and they
will be stationed at Emergency Centres on a 24-hour basis. Apart from
these vehicles, RDA officials have also been provided with vehicles to
monitor the Expressway at any time of the day,” he added.
At the same time, motorists have also been instructed to be mindful
of the condition of vehicles before entering the Expressway as any
breakdown will lead to accidents.
“It is better for motorists to decide whether the vehicle is fit to
be driven on the Expressway”, he added.
“If any vehicle faces a breakdown on the Expressway, they will be
towed out by vehicles deployed by the RDA,” he added.
The RDA is now planning to provide booklets to motorists indicating
the points where they can get services in the event of an accident.
The road has been designed to minimise accidents and to prevent head on collisions.
While many workers are still toiling to make this dream road a
reality and to fine tune the Expressway for the grand opening next
Sunday under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa we returned on
the same route thinking that the impossible has been made possible in a
short space of time!